Great leaders delegate, empower and trust


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If you want to destroy worker initiative, blast a hole in productivity, and scribble the bottom line with red ink, there’s no better way to do it than by micromanaging your employees. Keeping workers on tight leashes and constantly interrupting them ruins their ability to find thoughtful, profitable ways to do their jobs, and it wastes your valuable time as well.

True organizational productivity requires engaged, informed personnel willing and eager to work toward the organization’s mission and vision. And it all starts with a simple concept that’s amazingly hard for some people to implement: letting go of control.

This can be a tough sell, especially if you’ve built your organization from the ground up. It’s your baby; you know all its quirks, and it can be hard to trust even small parts of it to others since you can’t be absolutely certain that they won’t let it come to harm somehow. But consider this: if you’re so distrustful of your employees, then why did you hire them in the first place?

Empower them with trust

Trust is the diametric opposite of micromanagement, which is based on a lack of trust that others can do their jobs. Your trust for the people who work for you should support every decision you make as a manager. Instead of automatically distrusting them, it’s to your advantage to assume that they can do the jobs they’ve been hired to do, assuming the proper training and opportunity.

This may require some serious reworking of your default attitude, but make it your ultimate goal to be able to stand back and give them the benefit of the doubt, as long as they have the experience and can prove their competence. If they can’t, that’s when you can justifiably ride them and, as necessary, replace them.

You do need to keep an eye on everyone, but only as part of the big picture. Otherwise, give people the freedom and flexibility to get their jobs done. Meanwhile, you can be doing all those high-value things that you get paid to do, instead of trying to do everyone else’s work.

What is your time worth?

Micromanagers tend to live by the old adage, “If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.” But the savvy leader quickly learns that you can’t get it all done right by trying to do everything single-handedly. If you allow yourself to become a slave of your team’s day-to-day operations, your own productivity will flag along with everyone else’s.

As a leader, your core responsibilities should probably be the higher level elements that address greater profits for the organization. Your sights should always be set above the mundane, which means that you must delegate or outsource anything that fails to meet your high-profit standards. It just doesn’t make economic sense to run around taking care of little things, or handling crises that should be assigned to lower-paid employees.

If you earn the equivalent of $X an hour, you should never do anything that earns the company less than that. Even if you have to take steps to fix something a subordinate is doing wrong, whether that involves training or replacing them, in most cases it’s still more economical than doing the job yourself.

Besides, if you waste time on other people’s jobs, you’ll have to work extra hard to get your job done. Oh, no doubt you’re willing to put in the extra time, and that’s laudable; but eventually you’re going to wear yourself out and start slipping, decreasing your own productivity and making yourself less valuable to the company.

Delegate. Don’t abdicate.

When it comes down to the bottom line, you simply have to push every responsibility you can down to the lowest possible level. Focus on your critical few tasks, handing off everything you realistically can to other people. Again, this comes down to rejecting the temptation to micromanage and just giving others control.

It’s always wise to ‘trust but verify.’ Just because you hand a task to someone else doesn’t mean that you can forget all about it. That’s abdication, and it’s something you can’t afford—because even when you delegate a task, you’re still responsible for it. You still have to make sure that it’s getting done consistently and on a timely basis. So occasionally, you’ll have to check in with your delegate to learn the score and, as necessary, make adjustments.

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